Lunes Santos, also known as Holy Monday or Easter Monday, is part of the Semana Santa week celebration in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca. The procession is a village pilgrimage, complete with horse in dazzling livery with youthful rider, children dressed as Roman soldiers and babies in white adorned with glittering wings and floral crowns. It is a photographic feast.
The procession winds through the streets of the village after beginning at the Iglesia de Preciosa Sangre de Cristo (Church of the Precious Blood) at nine in the morning. They stop at altars sheltered with tapetes (handwoven rugs) set up along the way for refreshment and rest, a reenactment of the Twelve Stations of the Cross. This is my first Semana Santa in Oaxaca — tomorrow begins our portrait photography workshop that will delve into the personal images of Semana Santa. I set my alarm for seven o’clock this morning so I would not miss this solemn village event. (Next photo workshop based in Teotitlan is during Dance of the Feather.)
Our first stop was at the corner of Av. Benito Juarez and 2 de Abril where the figures of Jesus and Mary were placed under the altar and adorned with fresh orchids. The priest said a blessing. People came to the altar to make a prayer and leave an offering.
The women had been up early preparing tejate with masa and cacao that had been ground by hand on the metate. Then men came through the crowd with handpainted gourds filled to the brim and handed one to me. It was delicioso and muy rico! We were thirsty and tired pilgrims.
I asked Josefina about the significance of the babies dressed in white with wings. They symbolize purity and innocence, she said, adding that this was an important part of the celebration. I extrapolate that it is connected to being reborn and ressurrected which is the essential meaning of Easter.
In my own faith tradition, I would interpret this to mean that each year we each have an opportunity to start afresh with new hope and opportunity to do better in the world.
At our next lengthier stop at the corner of Independencia and Hidalgo, we were served a homemade nieves (ice cream refreshment.) The priest led the assembly in prayer and the band played solemnly.
The procession wends its way through the village, stopping in each of the five sections, for villagers to give and receive blessings, picking up pilgrims along the way as was the tradition centuries ago. I am reminded of when I visited Jerusalem and encountered the pilgrims from many nations: Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. I saw them walking the Via Dolorosa to recreate history and affirm their belief. Today was no different.